A Pardon, Apartheid and Plagiarism

Image result for nelson mandela in prison
Nelson Mandela in his prison cell

Another instalment of my autobiography before I revert to my normal blogs

Late one afternoon Patrick arrived home deeply disturbed. Throughout all the threatening events of the last few years with both police and gangsters, I’d never see my tough imperturbable husband shaken.

Now he stood by me, utterly de-stabilised, while I peeled potatoes at the kitchen bench, and listened to him tell how he’d been pursued all the way down the motorway by a large black car with three men in black in it. He caught sight of them in his rear vision mirror and watched the three, wearing black suits and black sunglasses, looking vaguely oriental he said, and implacable, following him relentlessly.

They felt utterly alien, he added. He’d managed to throw them off by failing to indicate when he turned left at speed onto the minor road home. I caught the nameless dread of the encounter and was so appalled that I buried it in my consciousness, and forgot it.

But a few years later when I read on page 78 of his book ‘Alien Intelligence’, Stuart Holroyd’s discussion of the strange phenomena of the sinister men in black in large black cars, two or three of them, who have menaced those people all round the world who have seen and spoken of UFO’s – as we had done – it all came back…

We’d seen UFO’s often, and I always felt a sense of benevolence and peace when we did. The last time we’d seen them I’d known all evening that this was the night, and kept watching for them. It was a still light summer night, and suddenly I saw a green flashing craft moving swiftly and silently across the sky.

It was bouncing up and down and then I saw another silent object coming from the opposite direction, flashing red. They joined up, and suddenly shot up vertically so fast that they disappeared almost at once. And that was our last sighting.

Another unwelcome presence now entered our lives, a writer called David Yallop. He’d been staying with a mutual friend, writer Maurice Shadbolt, and had become fascinated by the Thomas Case. He rang Patrick from the airport as he was leaving to return to the UK. He suggested that they collaborate on a book about the case, and believing that anything which added to the pressure on the government, Patrick somewhat reluctantly agreed.

He sent all his notes, clippings, files, a copy of his book Trial by Ambush, the confidential transcripts of both trials, and the police photographs of the inside of the house where the couple had died.

After six months of silence Yallop wrote and said he’d decided to write the book himself. He used all Patrick’s work to produce the book, with no acknowledgement, and interviewed no-one. He made a huge wave when the book was published by coming to New Zealand and claiming he knew who had fed the murdered couple’s baby, who had been found in the house unharmed.

His book became a bestseller, while Patrick spent months retrieving all his files and material from Yallop. Yallop always claimed that he had got Arthur Thomas out of prison, but actually he was just another player in the long drawn out tragedy. Patrick and Jim Sprott then had a long session with the Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, and he decided to give all the facts to an independent QC, R.A. Adam-Smith.

Meanwhile the Mr Asia inquiry had taken a strange twist – Mr Asia himself was found murdered in Lancashire, England. His partner in his crimes, Terry Clark, was eventually arrested by the UK police, and among the incriminating evidence was a photograph of the woman who had rung us – lying laughing on a hotel bed naked – surrounded by thousands of pound notes.

She denied any knowledge of her lover’s criminal doings, and he was sentenced to twenty years in prison, though he died suddenly after two years. Patrick took four weeks off from The Star to write the book ‘The Mr Asia File’ about The Star’s investigation.

For the last week of this intensive enterprise, we took a brief holiday in the Bay of Islands so he could check out Terry Clark’s palatial and notorious mansion on the waterfront. We both wanted to come home early without mentioning to each other that we feared something was happening at our house.

We were right- this was when we found the break-in and deep freeze switched off. The next day we all drove into town to do food shopping, and for Patrick to deliver the final chapters of the book to his editor.  The children and I sat in the car outside the newspaper in the hot summer afternoon of 18 December 1980. Suddenly Patrick came running out – “Arthur’s been pardoned!” I looked at him blankly. I couldn’t even take it in. Mr Adam- Smith QC had examined the evidence, and told Muldoon that Arthur was innocent.

We drove home to pack an over-night bag for Patrick, and rendezvoused with him on his way down to meet Arthur just out of prison. Back in ’73 Patrick had promised they would spend the first night of Arthur’s freedom together. Now seven weary years later, he was fulfilling his promise. After feeding the children, I got on with the holiday washing that evening, and as I pegged up the clothes, I saw a station-wagon pull into the drive and back out to park hidden behind a high hedge.

I walked down the drive as two men got out of the car, and one put something black under his arm. They strode purposefully towards me, and I thought: ‘they’ve’ come for Patrick. I was rooted to the spot in terror, wondering how to protect the children. I know now, how true those phrases are – rooted to the spot, frozen with terror. Then the man with the black object under his arm, introduced himself as a TV news anchor, he was holding his microphone. Since we never watched TV I hadn’t recognised him.

He was the first of many newsmen staking out the house that night, hoping to interview Arthur. But Patrick had to keep him under wraps and hide him until his own newspaper came out the following day. So there was no trace of him or Arthur. Eventually they drove into the garage, and Arthur uncoiled himself from the floor in the back seat. The only food in the house after our holiday was eggs, so his first meal of freedom was scrambled eggs and red wine.

Half way through he wanted to ring the prime minister, to thank him for the pardon. We heard the operator ask who was calling, and Arthur replying Arthur Thomas for Mr Muldoon, and the operator slammed down the receiver thinking it was a hoax!  With some fast talking Patrick managed to get Muldoon on the line to talk to Arthur.

Both men then drove off to Arthur’s sister’s house where he stayed the night untroubled by newsmen. He came out of the bedroom, carrying the flowered sheet from his bed, asking if this was a joke. So many things had changed during his eight years in jail, and flowered sheets were one of them.

When a film was made of Yallop’s book, in which Patrick was written out of all that had transpired, the last scene is of Arthur’s eight brothers and sisters running hand- in- hand across a field to meet him. But it wasn’t like that.

In the morning, Patrick took him to his parents who had been running Arthur’s farm for him. As they drove up to the house, the door opened, and Ivy, his old mother, flung her arms around him, crying,” My boy, my boy.” His father, kindly, patient, Job-like, stood in the door, and said to his son: “Where the hell have you been?” a question which had many meanings. It was a deeply moving moment of quiet joy.

A few months later the Prime Minister did something that split the country and communities,  families and friendships. In a rugby mad country, he refused to honour the anti-apartheid agreements of the Commonwealth, and allowed the all- powerful Rugby Union to invite the South African rugby team, the Springboks, to tour this country for a series of test matches.

It sounds innocent enough, but it was betrayal of the anti-apartheid movement, and was an encouragement to racism in this country. The liberal, educated middle classes and town people who had marched years before in the fifties under the banner ‘No Maoris, no Tour’  when Maoris were refused their places in the visiting NZ team by South African authorities, now opposed this tour with all their might. The country folk and rugby die-hards passionately supported it. (Maoris were eventually allowed into South Africa as ‘honorary whites’)

There were protest marches all over the country for months beforehand to ‘Stop the Tour”. Thousands of people who had never marched or protested before in their lives, old and young, fit or hobbling along on sticks, tried to make their voice against apartheid heard and ‘Stop the Tour”. The police countered with violent measures.

Friends – poets, painters, writers, psychiatrists, potters, architects, took to wearing crash helmets to protect their heads from the blows of police batons. One match in Hamilton had to be abandoned when protestors surged against the fence around the rugby field, and spilled onto the ground.

The match was cancelled, and enraged rugby fans sought out protestors and beat them up unmercifully. It was the most extraordinary episode in the history of a peaceful, law-abiding country. Like so many others, Patrick and I both marched and wrote against the tour. In our country community we were so completely ostracised that I took a book with me to read while everyone else was sociaising, when I had to attend school concerts in the village hall.

And Nelson Mandela, enduring his dark night of the soul in his prison cell on Robben Island, hearing of the protest marches half a world away, and that the match in Hamilton had been cancelled when protestors invaded the ground, felt as ‘if the sun had come out’.

Next week -what really happened to the murdered couple…

 Food for Threadbare Gourmets

 Because our forest is hidden away behind high heavy iron gates, with no fear of being caught by a breathalyser, we are able to indulge in an easy and old fashioned form of entertaining – drinks before dinner.

This recipe for red tinned salmon is a quick and easy dip, and good to eat with chilled white wine or rose. Use 50 gms of softened butter to 100gms of red salmon. Whip the butter together with half the salmon, and then stir in a clove of chopped garlic, a chopped spring onion, a teasp of finely chopped fresh dill, and the grated zest and juice  of half a lemon. Add the juice from the tin of salmon, and then flake the remaining salon and lightly stir into the mixture. Spread on rice crackers for gluten free guests or any other small cracker for guests to help themselves.

Food for Thought

Nothing is more satisfying than to write a good sentence. It is no fun to write lumpishly, dully, in prose the reader must plod through like wet sand. But it is a pleasure to achieve, if one can, a clear running prose that is simple yet full of surprises. This does not just happen. It requires skill, hard work, a good ear, and continued practice.                      Barbara Tuchman, historian






Filed under cookery/recipes, history, life and death, politics, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

18 responses to “A Pardon, Apartheid and Plagiarism

  1. Awesome ! Well done Patrick !
    You really must put all these posts into a book dear Valerie 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is tempting to think that because NZ is small that what we do here, and what we have done here, is boring and inconsequential. I love reading that Nelson Mandela felt as if the sun had come out when he heard about the cancellation of the match in Hamilton.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Hurrah for Arthur and Patrick! Big Boo for Yallop! Some people have no sense of morality and I suspect you and Patrick were stunned at the audacity of Yallop’s actions. I wonder if he’d get away with what he did these days? And no wonder we all live in a culture of protecting our copyright and moral rights for anything to do with journalism, writing and art.. Great post, as ever, Valerie!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Lynne,
      Yes, you are right – we were stunned and angry at Yallop’s ruthlessness. One the of things that really bugged us was that Patrick had carefully refrained from ever publishing the photos of the orphaned little girl who was eighteen months at the time, and Yallop used her photo ( abstracted from Patrick’s material) in his book. Such an invasion of a wounded child’s privacy.
      Thank you Lynne – lovely to hear from you..

      Liked by 1 person

  4. OH! OH! How I agree: “Nothing is more satisfying than to write a good sentence. It is no fun to write lumpishly, dully, in prose, the reader must plod through like wet sand. But it is a pleasure to achieve, if one can, a clear running prose that is simple yet full of surprises. This does not just happen. It requires skill, hard work, a good ear, and continued practice.” Barbara Tuchman, historian

    That is exactly how I feel and try to portray on my daily blog!

    This is another exciting and wonderous post in your very interesting and adventurous life!! I can hardly wait for the next installment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ah, Valerie. We must always remain vigilant. Just as justice comes, there is another injustice. We live in a perilously divided world that requires our highest and best participation. Every act of kindness, every kind word, every compassionate smile brings light and hope. My husband and I were discussing the quote by Sir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe) the other day – “For he that does good, having the unlimited power to do evil, deserves praise not only for the good which he performs, but for the evil which he forbears.” Everyone makes a choice – may we choose decency, honesty, honorable pathways. Sending hugs and love.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dearest Rebecca,
    Thank you for another of your thoughtful reflective comments…. gosh… Ivanhoe… I haven’t opened that book again since I was ten, but you make me feel I should re-discover it, with that wonderful quote..

    It seems to me the only way to live our lives, unless we want to keep coming back to learn how to love !!!

    I found the book you asked about, on Mary Cassatt the other day, by Robin Oliveira … a novel, well written, given to me by a friend, or I wouldn’t have read it, being allergic to historical novels, since I’m always wondering what ls true and what is fiction.( I always want facts !!!)
    If you’re still interested in it, I can send it to you…
    Let me know… much love XXX

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for the recommendation. I have found “I Always Loved You” by Robin Oliverira on Kindle and have already downloaded the book! I am with you – I love fact over fiction. One of my most favorite Mark Twain quote is: The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.” Hugs!!!!


  7. Jane Sturgeon

    Hello lovely Valerie, I lived in South Africa during some of the apartheid years. I don’t see colour, but people’s energy, so I struggled with it deeply at a soul level. There are those in life who ride off the back of other’s energy and efforts. I have just been watching three jet skis in the by here. Riding side by side, then falling back and criss crossing each other’s wake. I wonder if Yallop’s life ‘jet ski’ got overturned? Thomas’s Dad’s response to his son’s return carries such love. Huge hugs for you, flowing across to your forest. Xxx much love ❤ xXx


  8. It must have been such a relief to see Arthur pardoned, but it must have seemed like such a long struggle at the time. As was that against apartheid, I’m not surprised to find you among the protesters Valerie.


  9. Juliet

    This is all so gripping and stirring to read. The fight for justice takes such courage, and you have it in bucket loads, as did Patrick. It’s heart-breaking too, that innocent people should suffer so much. Keep it coming Valerie, you are a born storyteller.


  10. Dear Valerie,

    Once more you have me on the edge of my chair awaiting the next installment.
    I am horrified at the unscrupulous Yallop’s theft of Patrick’s book and not even having the decency to acknowledge him. I can think of other words to attribute but I’ll hold them in…at least in print. At the very least Arthur knew who his champions were.
    I will never understand the white superiority attitude. Apartheid was a horrible thing. Just as Jim Crow laws in America were. It’s a pity we can’t see ourselves as we are…one race…human.
    Thank you for another enthralling chapter. Hugs to you and himself.




  11. That Yallop turned out a skunk of note, didn’t he? Sadly, it is often the way that people of lesser talent but unscrupulous ways are the main beneficiaries regarding the actual accomplishments of others. Sometimes it is just due to the confusion of historians as with Columbus, Vespucci, and the most likely discoverer, who sailed on behalf of the English by whom he was known as John Cabot.
    I’m afraid the black car and flying saucer link makes little sense to me . . .


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